Fire Safety

The University of Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Staff has an extensive professional and academic background in fire protection, fire prevention, safety, code management, fire investigation, building inspections, fire suppression, hazardous materials, and training.

The Fire and Emergency Services Department ensures a safe operational environment at the University for the students, faculty, and staff along with the protection of University property by providing a contemporary fire and safety program that is continuously reviewed, updated and coordinated with students, employees, and contractors at the University. This concerted safety effort is a shared responsibility that addresses quality of life issues for the entire Penn community.

To learn more about the Division of Public Safety Fire and Emergency Services, please visit the Fire and Emergency Services website.

The University of Pennsylvania provides multiple methods of fire protection in all its residential buildings:

  • “State of the Art” Quick Response Sprinkler Systems – Each room and common space in the residential system is equipped with a heat-sensitive sprinkler that is designed to go off in the event of a fire.  Sprinklers are engaged when heat or contact causes the glass vial in them to break, so residents are also advised to avoid hanging clothes on sprinklers or playing hall sports that could lead to a sprinkler being hit.
  • Fire Alarm Systems – All common spaces (Halls, Lounges, etc.) in the residential buildings have sensors linked to the Building-Wide Fire Alarm System.  The Building-Wide Fire Alarm system sounds when smoke or heat reaches the sensors in the common spaces or if the sprinklers are engaged as above.  When the Building-Wide Fire Alarm System is engaged, residents must evacuate their rooms and the common space in the building in accordance with the building evacuation plan.
  • In-Room Smoke Detectors – All student rooms are equipped with smoke detectors that only sound locally.  These smoke detectors are activated by smoke, steam, or other “smoke-like” substances in the air.  The in-room smoke detectors do not sound the main alarms for the building, so residents suffering from minor cooking disasters should avoid opening the room door to the hallway when clearing smoke from their rooms.  It’s suggested that residents open windows instead in these instances.
  • Fire Extinguishers – For reasons of code compliance, the University provides Fire Extinguishers in stations in the common hallways of most residential buildings.  It is not recommended that residents try to put out fires on their own, but in the event of a situation of last resort, residents can pull the pin on the extinguishers, direct the nozzle towards the base of the fire, and engage the handle to activate the fire extinguisher.  The resident should then move the nozzle back and forth to cover as much of the fire as possible with the contents of the fire extinguisher.

Residents can find Evacuation Plans posted in hallways and elevators within their building.  In addition, residents can find their Evacuation Plan Bulletin by going to and searching for their building of residence.

An important component of Penn’s Public Safety Delivery System is the conducting of reality based emergency evacuation procedures. Emergency exit drills are required by the Philadelphia Fire Prevention Code and are held in all residences twice a semester. These drills are supervised by the professional staff of the Department of Fire and Occupational Safety and include alarm activation to ensure fire protection and reliability, along with an orderly, disciplined evacuation, followed by a thorough inspection of the building to immediately rectify any code related issues. Finally, an on-site discussion is held with students to evaluate and improve, when necessary, the performance of the fire drills.

Every year the Department of Fire and Emergency Services inspect all buildings to ensure that the University’s buildings and its fire protection systems are operating at a high level of safety and readiness. These inspections are complemented by twice yearly Residential Services Health and Safety inspections.

Immediately prior to New Students arriving on campus Residence Advisors (RA) and Graduate Assistants (GA) attend workshops and receive comprehensive fire safety training, which they in turn provide to the new students. Additionally, first year students are required to attend safety and security programs during New Student Orientation, which take place on Labor Day Weekend each year. Fire Safety is an integral part of our overall safety program. Subjects that are covered include: emergency exit drills, overview of the University’s fire protection systems, how to report an emergency and how to conduct yourself during an emergency. Students are also educated regarding the consequences of tampering with fire protection equipment along with engaging of false alarms. Information is provided about the prohibition of fire works, candles and portable heaters.